More Than Football
 
 

Sept. 17, 2005

By Jessica Garrison

CSTV.com

 

SHREVEPORT, La. - It would have been the storybook ending to the hero's trial. With just second left and trailing by a touchdown, Tulane junior quarterback Lester Ricard tossed up the Hail Mary pass that sailed into the end zone.

 

There it bounced off the fingertips of two Mississippi State defenders, through the straining arms of Tulane's receivers and fell to the ground. That thud was the punctuation of a 21-14 Tulane disappointment, but also a sign of the Green Wave's greater triumph.

 

There were so many ways that the Green Wave might have missed even the chance to catch that Hail Mary pass. If they hadn't evacuated New Orleans in time, if they hadn't stayed together on a gym floor in Jackson, Miss. If SMU hadn't taken them in Dallas, or Lousiana Tech offered them a home in Ruston, there might be no Tulane football season to kick off, and no Mississippi State game to lose.

 

For better or for worse, but mostly, in Tulane coach Chris Scelfo's estimation, for the better, Tulane met Mississippi State at Independence Bowl Stadium in front of 16,421 fans.

 

"I'm very proud," Scelfo said. "In reality I'm very proud of how we got off that bus today and came out that tunnel. We're going to persevere and keep playing."

 

Scelfo and his players alike agreed that the sheer emotion of the game affected them in the first half. Scelfo mentioned poor conditioning, but it was the emotion that brought them all back. Down 14-0 in the third quarter, the Green Wave rumbled back to tie the game at 14 in the fourth.

 

"The second half is where you saw our true football team," Scelfo said.

 

After a six-week training camp under the most bizarre of circumstances, that football team showed the resilience their coach has preached all week.

 

"When you get on that field, things fall back in perspective," junior wide receiver Preston Brown said. Even from the perspective of a loss, there was a sense of relief on those players' faces. The season is started, the evacuation is over, their lives are in a rhythm they know and understand.

 

Evacuees In The Crowd

 

One section over from the Parkway High School marching band, a different group of newly converted Tulane fans was gathered. Three were evacuees from New Orleans themselves, for now residents of the Hirsch Coliseum right next to Independence Bowl Stadium. The stadium gave 350 tickets to the official Red Cross shelter, and every single ticket was spoken for from among the 400-450 people still remaining in the shelter.

 

Sharon Steckler, a volunteer counselor brought in from her home in Chicago by the American Red Cross, called the game a "wonderful distraction" for the evacuees who otherwise spend their days in the shelter. The environment, though clean and secured by armed members of the National Guard, is still a difficult place to live, a constant reminder that home, in many cases, no longer exists.

 

For Augusta Hubbs, a senior who attended Lendry High School in New Orleans, has come from a football program that "had in mind to get to a championship," to Fair Park High School in Shreveport.

 

"If my home is gone and their home is gone, at least I can come out and support," Hubbs said, calling Tulane's perseverance inspiring.

 

Hubbs escaped with his aunt, uncle and his cousin Terrell, who played quarterback at Lendry where Hubbs was a wide receiver. They stayed in their house for several days after the hurricane, the street in front of their house completely flooded and without power, but with flashlights, candles and supplies to get them through.

 

As the situation in New Orleans continued to worsen, Hubbs' family came to Hirsch Coliseum in Shreveport, where they have been for almost two weeks. Within 24 hours of Hubbs' arrival, he remembers, he was registered for school, and he was grateful.

 

"I just wanted to finish high school, period," Hubbs said. Football turned out to be a fringe benefit.

 

Hubbs was excited to get back onto a team - Fair Park's Coach Husher Calhoun visited the evacuees at Hirsch who were enrolled at Fair Park and talked to them about his program. Once he got to practice, Hubbs watched the wide receivers and stepped in as a backup. He has played two games already as a member of the kickoff and punt return teams, one win and one loss, but most importantly, he and his cousin are once again a part of a team.

 

"The guys treat us like we're just another family," Hubbs said. "I'd like to thank them."

 

For now, Hubbs' has a 4 X 10 foot space on the Coliseum floor, with an air mattress for furniture. It is his school and his team, however, that make him feel like his new situation can become a home.

 

Jessica Garrison is an Assistant Editor for CSTV.com and will be on assignment in Louisiana this week. She can be reached here with comments or questions.


 

 


 
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